Should I Come Out on Facebook?

July 19, 2012 § 8 Comments

“[it] seem[s] easiest, but also… attention seeking,” 

“Its the person’s life the opinion of others should not matter… if coming out on a social network is what they want to do then fine.”

” [it's] completely disingenuous to the gravity of coming out. “

 

These are just a few answers to the question a reader posed to me two weeks ago: “Should I come out on Facebook?” However, I stand by my initial response: it depends on why and how you do it, but overall it can be  a worthwhile means of coming out. It gives you a sense of control, an ability to present the information in a way you see fit, and a large audience to speak to. So I say, if done appropriately, why not? Nevertheless, I sought others’ opinions, by asking my facebook friends and twitter followers, since my coming out experience was devoid of Facebook interactions (aside from ‘liking’ lady gaga, Robyn, and HGTV on Facebook – three supposedly ‘blatantly obvious’ signs I was a homo). Their answers, especially my gay friends’, surprised me.

Each response was respectful, yet the major trends are telling. Of those who responded, most straight girls support the notion of being out, whether on Facebook or not, and while they feel it ought to be a private matter, they further support coming out on Facebook. While (to my astonishment) most gay males said no, straight guys adamantly support the idea of doing “whatever the hell you want,”. It was my gay friends who spoke most critically of it, deeming it disingenuous to the gravity of coming out. Yet every other peer fully supported the notion.

Their responses beg the question: isn’t the notion of coming out simultaneously to 1000+ of your acquaintances, friends, family members, and peers in a way that you can tailor to fit your circumstances an attractive option? Some, like myself, feel this way, but others perceive it as disingenuous and attention-seeking, even questioning if cowardice lies behind the desire to use Facebook as a coming out aide.

If this is the case, even I disapprove. Once again it comes down to the reason you are coming out, and the way you do it. Consider these scenarios:

1. You’re outing yourself on Facebook to spite your parents. Think twice before you act. Coming out is memorable, but something many of us cherish for both the bad experiences as well as the good. Ask yourself if you are really willing to sacrifice a more memorable and meaningful coming out just to get back at your (homophobic?) parents or community.

2. You are confident in your sexuality, you have told your close friends/family already, and you want everyone to know. Go for it. Would I recommend posting “I’m a homo!”? No. I hope that you will articulate your particular understanding of what being gay means to you. Explain why you are coming out, why you choose to do so in such a visible fashion, and give them a clue to the response you desire: whether it’s to ask you any questions privately, if you want there support in the upcoming days, or if you want them to treat you as if nothing changed (which arguably so, may never happen. And that’s okay. Just recognize it, accept it, and learn to enjoy it).

3. You want to come out online to avoid conflict. Understand that conflict will arise no matter what you do. Accept it. Prepare to deal with it. Surround yourself with people who will pick you up if and when you realize you can’t do it yourself. And remember that conflict isn’t a bad thing. The friction that conflict creates is just the force that motivates some to change, to grow, to accept. Looking ahead – even into tomorrow or next week, to see what issues may arise, can help give you some perspective on your coming out strategy. When people find out they will be curious and they will have questions. Use this as an opportunity to spread some awareness, be honest in your response and wield it as a chance to move forward. You may want to give your friends who already know a headsup before you do it, allowing them a chance to respond positively first and to continue supporting you when they hear about it the next day.

4. You want to come out online to control it. As many may tell you, coming out rarely goes as planned and while you can hope to orchestrate every aspect of it (I surely tried), sometimes the fun is in the spontaneity of it. Be willing to use facebook as much as you want. Draft up your statuses, prepare your responses, even give some friends the heads-up so they can help you prepare for the next day, but understand that you can’t control everything. Let that desire go. It will drive you crazy and in my experience you’ll be better off just going with the flow at times. Giving people a first-hand account of what you’re doing and how you feel seems to help though, just don’t expect to micromanage every aspect of your coming out.

The reader who asked me this question came out on Facebook, despite others’ concerns. His Facebook page shows no signs of bullying. He appears to be accepted, and is happy with his choice. Is it right for everyone? Certainly not. But it was for him, and though perilous, it’s an option worth considering.

§ 8 Responses to Should I Come Out on Facebook?

  • JC Sanborn says:

    Another thing to consider…are there Facebook friends that you don’t want to know you’re gay? If that’s not a concern and there are a ton of people to tell, then go for it. The idea of getting it all over at once rather than repeating yourself a bunch of times and possibly preventing rumors to run rampant is appealing.

    It definitely wasn’t the right thing for me as I have extended family that won’t take the news well if/when they find out (extremely nice and giving, but narrow minded Texas Republicans), and for family peace I decided to send a group email to the rest of the family instead. This also allowed me to personalize it a bit more, since I didn’t have to make a generic announcement suitable for everybody.

    Glad to hear that it worked out for the reader.

    • Craig says:

      That’s a great point JC, one I added into a rewrite for another site if you don’t mind.

      I figure the options of dealing with that, if one “must” come out on facebook, exist within the security controls and how private we make what we post. Or just don’t post at all.

      Great suggestion, thanks for pointing that out!

      • JC Sanborn says:

        Another site…that’s fine. Is that site something you can share?

        While Facebook has security measures that would allow you to tailor who sees each posting, if you have a lot of friends it can be extremely tedious and potentially time consuming to weed through it for such a personal posting – I know several people (wouldn’t surprise me if you’re one) that have 1000+ friends. For me, there is a contingency for when I don’t care if the aforementioned relatives learn my sexuality, at which time I’ll change the “I’m interested in…” space from blank to ‘men’, but I won’t make a posting outside of that.

        Each coming out story is different. This is a good demonstration of what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for the next. For me, it was 1-on-1 with immediate family/close friends/team, but email for some extended family, and TBA for additional family members.

  • msgunzelman says:

    If your concern is trying not to be attention seeking but just showing an identity of who you are, I just recommended such has using “in a relationship” with a pic of your boyfriend.

    • Craig says:

      Perhaps some of my friends are hyper-critical, but they say that too can be showy. Its all about execution though. Just as there are tasteful straight couples in propics on facebook, I’m there there are tasteful lgbtq couples in propics – its the non-tasteful photos that my friends would judge. Good idea

  • tristram says:

    I think you should come out in person to the people you are closest to (parents, siblings, close friends). It seems grossly disrespectful to put these people in a position where they don’t get a chance to ask you questions or have some time to think about what you’re saying. Where they might even find out from a third party – “Did you see what your brother/son/best friend posted on Facebook?!”

    Ideally, you’d do it face-to-face. If you don’t have the courage to do that, then maybe you’re not ready to come out. In some contexts, a letter, email or text might be okay. Once you have informed your inner circle, I’m all for putting something on Facebook. But when you put anything on Facebook, I don’t think you “control” it. Once it’s out there, it’s going to spread in ways you never imagined to anyone and everyone.

    btw – did you see the letter the R&B singer Frank Ocean put out (on tumblr, I think)? Really beautiful – and a great story for him to share with his fans.

    • Craig says:

      That first scenario is exactly what deterred me from doing so back when I contemplated how to come out (though Facebook wasn’t as big, there was alway AIM!)

      And yes I have, its quite the compelling “note” – and the feedback has been huge! Its exciting to imagine what this means for the music world especially since he breaks so many taboos.

  • Nana Ansah says:

    Now if u hvn’t come out on facebook yet, hv u considered being able to take how ppl will react no matter what they comment? If yes den I support u all de way…if no then a pice of advice, until u r able to do so, don’t. Facebook is a more broader thin u know. Even ppl u don’t know will try to comment all sorts of stuff about u…until u can take it all without losing it, don’t. It wud break my heart to know u got depressed or something of that sort and closed ur account der. Even though I don’t reli know u I feel for u…So go ahead or don’t. If it is done though u’d be greatly relieved. Whateva ur decision we’ll always be here for u…

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